‘Off-the-Record’ Contract Talks Continue

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The Guild and BBNA management for the past couple of weeks have been conducting negotiations in “off-the-record” talks.

In these off-the-record talks, each side has agreed not to publicize anything said during the discus- sions or reveal any proposals that might be exchanged. That is the primary reason you haven’t heard much from us during a period when you’d normally expect regular bargaining updates.

So far, there have been three of these sessions with four representatives per side, as well as two or three other, less formal talks involving fewer members on each side. The off-the-record talks are scheduled to continue this week and next. BBNA has set a December 15th deadline for an agreement on what it calls its “alternative” proposal.

Your bargaining team is working hard to try to find a way to an agreement, but it’s been a tough slog. Our rank-and-file team is juggling meetings with management, meetings within the Guild bargaining team, as well as the demands of our full-time jobs.

While we cannot reveal what’s being said in the off-the-record negotiations, we can report that we have made multiple proposals in a attempt to narrow our differences.

In management’s “alternative” proposal, pay raises comparable to current increases would con- tinue for two years. In return, BBNA wants approximately 50 concessions from its employees, which pre- sumably would continue long beyond that two-year period, whereas the fate of automatic pay raises isn’t so certain into the future.

Those take-backs include ending an employee’s right to flexible work arrangements by giving man- agement complete discretion in awarding or taking away FWAs; giving BBNA the right to unilaterally cut health insurance benefits or increase co-pays, deductibles, etc; and shift insurance premiums to a percent- age basis (up to 35%) starting in two years; requiring new parents who take more than 30 days of unpaid leave to pay the full health insurance premium; barring the Guild from filing grievances over the misclassi- fication of employees as supervisors; giving management the right to hire an unlimited number of “contractors” who have no union protections for up to one year; cutting overtime payments; and having the right to schedule employees for nights or weekends and eliminating extra pay for weekend work.

A more comprehensive list of takebacks is available at WBNG.org.

Health care is shaping up to be a major issue. We have told BBNA on the record — even before these negotiations started — that we wanted to work with management to avoid the Affordable Care Act excise tax (the plan is fully compliant with the law; the excise tax is the only issue).

But BBNA would like to shift huge amounts of health care costs to employees, over and above what is necessary to avoid paying the tax under the ACA. Yet according to figures provided by manage- ment, health care costs for Guild-covered employees have actually gone down during the course of the current contract.

We will continue to provide updates as much as we can. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask a member of the Guild bargaining team: Laura Francis, Bruce Kaufman, Gary Diggs, Ben Cooper, Tammy Madison, Daren Neuben, Steve Cook, Catherine Kitchell, Ken May, Rob Tricchinelli, Rebecca Trinite, and Rachel Martin.

Summary (and by No Means a Complete List) of BBNA Proposed Takebacks

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  • No vacation carryover
  • Guild sick leave bank dissolved
  • BBNA has right to unilaterally reduce health benefits and/or increase co-pays, deductibles etc.
  • Starting as early as 2017, employees would have to pay premiums based on a percentage — up to 30% (35% in 2018), at BBNA’s discretion
  • Starting as early as 2017, pre-medicare retirees would have to pay 50% of their premium (effectively ending retire health insurance).
  • For Medicare eligible retirees, stipend to pay for Medicare supplementary insurance ends in 2017 (the post-12/15 proposal). In the 12/15 proposal the stipend is cut in half in 2018 for the retiree and eliminated for retiree spouse
  • Retiree who is “eligible” for other health insurance gets nothing under either proposal
  • In post 12/15 proposal pension accrual rate for current employees cut in half.
  • Under post 12/15 proposal, automatic 401(k) contribution ended for new hires and the match is reduced
  • In post-12/15 proposal, RIF severance max reduced to 52 weeks and accrual rate cut in half; just cause severance reduced to 26 weeks. Employee would have to agree not to file a grievance or take other legal action to get severance in either case.
  • BBNA demands right to classify employees and new hires as managers or supervisors (taking them out of the bargaining unit) and the Guild is not allowed to file a grievance.
  • Company would be allowed to hire as many “contractors” as it wants, for at least 12 months at a time
  • Guild representatives no longer allowed in office for routine matters.
  • Guild no longer allowed to hold lunchtime membership meetings
  • New hires no longer allowed to attend Guild orientation
  • Past practices would “disappear”
  • BBNA would be allowed issue new policies, or change current policies without bargaining
  • Employees’ right to flexible work arrangements would end
  • BBNA would have the right to reassign employees to any job it sees fit.
  • Employees could be scheduled for nights, weekends or a four day work week. Weekend differential eliminated
  • Overtime pay only after 40 hours in a week (holidays, vacation, sick leave days don’t count toward the 40 hours)
  • Overtime cash payment ended for employees G9 and above and for some G8 employees
  • Unpaid leaves of absence taken only at discretion of management
  • A mother who takes more than 30 days unpaid leave for the birth of a child would have to pay the full health insurance premium past the first month.
  • Layoff notice reduced from 60 days to two weeks. BBNA allowed to exempt up to 50% of “work unit” from seniority rights (if BBNA wants to keep a new hire over an experienced worker it can, and the decision is not subject to grievance or arbitration)
  • Bumping rights are eliminated
  • The rehire list is reduced to six months (currently two years)
  • Internal candidates get no preference for filling job openings
  • The minority traineeship program is ended
  • “News and editorial” employees required to sign “disclosure statements” regarding any outside employment or outside “activities.” BBNA has right to stop such employment/activity. There would be no right to grievance or arbitration.
  • Successors clause in Duration article would be eliminated and pay raises would not continue past expiration

Guild Proposes Major Improvements; BBNA Proposes Gutting Contract

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The Guild Tuesday delivered a proposal for a new contract, containing pay raises ranging up to eight percent a year; a sharp increase in new parent leave; reduced health costs; student loan aid; improved vacation provisions; improved 401(k) matching; and much more.

BBNA proposed two contracts — yes, that’s correct. BOTH would attack job security; give BBNA the right to unilaterally slash medical benefits and increase employee costs; ultimately end retiree health care; eliminate the right to flexible work arrangements; give BBNA the right to employ a “shadow” workforce of “contractors”; give BBNA the right to unilaterally exclude employees from Guild protec- tion; change or issue new work policies without bargaining; slash overtime; give BBNA the right to bar employees from doing outside work; eliminate the Guild Sick Leave Bank; and make an all-out assault on the Guild’s ability to represent the employees.

As part of BBNA’s unique two-contract tactic, if we don’t agree to its slightly less draconian pro- posal by December 15, it threatens to also to slash the pension, freeze salaries, and end vacation carry- over except in very limited circumstances. They also want to end the 401(k) automatic one percent con- tribution and cut the company match for new hires.

The less draconian proposal would provide pay raises ranging from 2.5 percent to 4 percent, and preserve the pension and 401(k). That’s the carrot.

Neither proposal includes any improvements — no increase in new parent leave; no increase in 401(k) contributions; no student loan debt help — nothing.

The Guild proposed wage increases of 8 percent for Band A employees, 7 percent in Band B, 6 percent for Band C, and 5 percent for Band D;

The Guild called on BBNA to dramatically increase new parent leave — proposing 16 weeks paid leave for new parents, up from the current three weeks.

We told management we want to reduce health insurance costs by eliminating premiums and re- ducing the out-of-pocket maximum.

The student loan proposal would provide employees with $2,000 per year to help pay off loans. There would be a lifetime limit of $10,000 per employee.

Under the Guild 401(k) proposal, the company contribution would increase to 4 percent of salary and the match would be a dollar-for-dollar up to 12 percent. This would apply to employees hired after September 2010. Employees hired before that date are in the defined benefit pension.

In vacation, the Guild proposed reducing the service time needed to move up the vacation sched- ule. Under our proposal, employees would earn four weeks of annual leave after three years and five weeks after nine years.

The Guild was represented by Unit Chair Laura Francis, unit officers Gary Diggs, Benjamin Cooper, Bruce Kaufman, Daren Neuben, Steve Cook, and Tammy Madison, along with Ken May, Catherine Kitchell, Rob Tricchinelli, Rachel Martin, Rebecca Trinite, chief bargainer Paul Reilly and WBNG Executive Director Cet Parks.

Laura Francis Re-elcted Unit Chair

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TWO NEW OFFICERS JOIN LEADERSHIPTEAM

Guild members last week overwhelmingly re-elected Laura Francis as their unit chair. She defeated Scott Harper, who was one of the unit vice chairs.

Francis had served as co-chair with Gwen Holmes for the past two years. Holmes did not seek re- election, and Guild members decided earlier to return to the single unit chair format.

There were no other contested offices.

There are two new officers — Bruce Kaufman replaces Harper as one of three Arlington vice chairs. Tammy Madison is the new unit secretary, replacing Janeen Mikell-Straughn, who did not seek re- election.

Steve Cook switches from vice chair to become the delegate to the WBNG Executive Council. Benjamin Cooper, who had been the delegate, becomes vice chair. Gary Diggs continues as the other Ar- lington vice chair.

Daren Neuben and Ray Algeo continue as Bethesda vice chairs.

In the race for WBNG Local offices, Cooper fell short in his bid for Local Treasurer. Incumbents Sheila Lindsay (president), Tim Fitzgerald (vice president), Mark Gruenberg (secretary), and Amy Lampkin (treasurer) will serve another term as WBNG officers.

GUILD STAFF COLLECT 50K IN SPOT BONUSES

Thanks to a provision bargained by the Guild in the current contract, some 70 Guild-covered employees collected a total of $50,000 in ‘spot’ bonuses last year. The bonuses ranged from $250 to $1000. The av- erage bonus was about $720.

Spot bonuses are intended for “meritorious work” that deserves “special financial recognition.” (See appendix F in the contract).

An employee can be nominated by a supervisor or can self-nominate.

INDIVIDUAL, CORPORATE BONUS CHECKS ARE COMING

Guild-covered employees who were here for all of 2014 will be getting a corporate performance bonus of 2.5 percent of base pay. BBNA did not reach its yearly revenue targets, but because the Guild bargained a minimum payment, employees still get a bonus.

Employees should learn shortly what their individual performance bonus amount is. Supervisors have been meeting with employees to tell them their ratings. The bonus money — both the corporate and individual — will be deposited into accounts February 26.

Employees hired between January 2 and June 30 of last year will get one-half of both the corporate and individual performance bonuses. Those hired after June 30 don’t get a bonus for 2014, but will get full bonuses for 2015.

Problems With WageWorks? Let the Guild Know!

The Guild has become aware of problems that employees have experienced with the recent transition from HFS to WageWorks as our provider for transportation and flexible spending account benefits.

In order to better represent you, we’re reaching out to see what types of problems, if any, employees have had.

Examples include:

  • technical difficulties registering your Smartrip card and/or registering for WageWorks and thus missing out on January or February benefits due to a missed deadline
  • inability to receive reimbursements for parking payments made in late 2014

Please provide a brief description of the problem you encountered and the type of benefit: mass transit, parking, bicycle, health care FSA, or dependent care FSA. Also, let us know whether the problem related to up-front benefit payments or reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses.

The Guild negotiated these benefits in the contract and we want to make sure that nobody is denied them because of circumstances beyond their control.

Please email Laura Francis (lfrancis@bna.com) or David Schwartz (dschwartz@bna.com) by the end of the day February 13 to let us know if there’s a WageWorks problem we can help you with.

Report from The NewsGuild Sector Conference

From January 16-19, our local union, the Washington Baltimore Newspaper Guild, sent delegates to the meeting of our “sector” of the Communications Workers of America, now called The News- Guild, in Orlando, Florida. One of the delegates was an officer from BBNA. Here’s a recap of what happened:

  • The name of our immediate parent is no longer “The Newspaper Guild,” as so many of our fellow units are partly or wholly out of the paper business. We are now “The NewsGuild.” It’s still abbreviated as “TNG.”
  • BBNA is doing better than many of our peers in the news industry. Several newspapers are facing layoffs and no raises for up to seven years. Once-daily papers have become three- to four-times- a-week papers. Even Canadian public broadcasting faces regular layoffs. There was a presentation on the news industry at the conference, which revealed that BBNA already provides the types of products that are the future of the news industry: subscription-only, high-quality information responsive to subscriber needs.
  • Delegates passed a large number of resolutions making technical changes to how the NewsGuild does business (changes to the name, how many delegates on the board from Canada, etc.). Most notable for us is that the NewsGuild now as a matter of policy requires a ban on gender identity discrimination to be proposed in all collective bargaining agreements.
  • The NewsGuild staff offered to help with organizing here. If you are interested in taking a seminar on how to get more people to join the Guild, please let a union officer know.

GUILD MOVES TO PROTECT ‘CONTRACTORS’

The Guild has filed a grievance charging BBNA with improperly denying contract rights to em- ployees by classifying them as “contractors.” The grievance covers dozens — and maybe more — em-

ployees who have been denied such benefits as vacation, sick leave, 401(k) payments, and bonuses.

Guild Stalwart Retires

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Many may not know it, but the good salaries, excellent benefits, and job security that Bloomberg BNA employees enjoy are due in no small part to the tireless work of one person — Reza Namdar.

For the better part of three decades, when a BNA employee (and yes it was just BNA for most of that time) had a problem, the person he or she usually sought out was Reza.

When the call went out for a shop steward, Reza answered.

When the call went for Guild contract bargainers — usually meaning working long nights — Reza not only answered, he led the team. Reza participated in every round of bargaining between 1997 and 2010. He would have been the chair of the 2012-13 bargaining team but for the onset of Parkinson’s disease that ultimately led to his early retirement.

Reza started at BNA in November 1986, working as a G-2 proofreader in the old production department. At the time of his retirement, he was a G-9 lead migration support specialist in the Publishing Systems Group.

He served as chair of the Guild unit at BNA (some called him unit chair for life) from 1999 until he stepped aside because of his illness in 2012.

He was a fierce defender of his members’ rights, and was respected not only by those he represented, but by management too.

“Reza was a role model for what a union leader and member should be and what a human being should be,” said Ken May, who served alongside Reza for years.

Current unit co-chair Gwen Holmes echoed that sentiment: “Reza was a model for a union leader who leaves a great legacy of service to the Washington Baltimore Newspaper Guild.”

Laura Francis, who succeeded Reza as unit chair put it this way: “Reza was and is an inspiration for all of us working with the Guild. His leadership, passion, and courage are irreplaceable, and he will be sorely missed.”

When it came to bargaining, Reza was the one always pushing for a little more, even if others on the team were ready to settle for what had been offered. More often than not, there was a little more.

Fellow long-time Guild activist Bruce Kaufman put it this way: “Reza was always the conscience of the membership. He never failed to remind both sides during collective bargaining to concentrate on the employees with the greatest needs.”

In 2013, the Local recognized Reza’s long service to the members at BNA and the Local by award- ing him the Connie Knox Memorial Award for Outstanding Service.

Reza once described his satisfaction of being hired into a union-represented job, saying he “felt assured my interests were well represented.”

During his long tenure as a Guild leader, there was no doubt the interests of all BNA employees were well represented.

Reza can be contacted at rnamdar@hotmail.com